Tom Perrotta is known for his suburban satire and his newest novel, The Leftovers, doesn’t disappoint. One warm, sunny day in October, thousands of people disappear in an event known to some as the Rapture, and to the less religious as the Sudden Disappearance. The story revolves around the Garvey family as they deal with this strange and inexplicable occurrence in very different fashions.
Teenaged daughter Jill witnesses the disappearance of her friend Jen. Wife and mom Laurie is best friends with Jill’s mom, and follows her into a cult-like group known as the Guilty Remnant. Members of the GR wear all white, take a vow of silence and smoke cigarettes. Laurie’s abandonment of her family has the expected effect on Jill as she spirals into some destructive behavior. Oldest son Tom, away at college when the Sudden Disappearance occurs, follows his mom’s path and joins up with Holy Wayne, a man who claims he can hug away your pain. Husband and father Kevin handles his wife’s abandonment, son’s disappearance and daughter’s problems with aplomb, also while running for and winning the mayoral election in their small town, hoping to help people accept what’s happened and move on. He becomes involved with Nora Durst, a woman whose husband and 2 children disappeared and is struggling with her own feelings of guilt and sadness.
The Leftovers is very much a character-driven novel. If you’re looking for a big plot surrounding this event, it doesn’t happen. There’s no explanation of where the people went or why certain ones were taken but not others (Jews, Atheists and Muslims disappear along with Christians). And yet the characters are compelling enough that you’ll still want to know what’s going to happen. A minor plot is introduced surrounding the deaths of members of the Global Remnant, but the deaths are quickly explained and the mystery fizzles out.
The ending of The Leftovers is a bit open-ended, there’s no nice neat bow that ties it all together. But the ending works. It feels almost like you’re peeking in on a slice of life in this town, learning a little bit about some of the people that live there, and then moving on, just as they are also moving on.
Notes on the audiobook: Unintentionally, this is the second book in a row that I listened to that was narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris. Although he has a long list of TV credits and has narrated a couple of dozen audio books, I’m not really familiar with his work, which is probably a good thing. He has a wonderful voice for audio books, easy to listen to without losing my attention.
Nancy would be more than a bit freaked out if people started disappearing. She writes about her 2 boys, books and life in Colorado at Life With My Boys and Books.